The Orange Pants

The 1980 game will not be remembered as a classic in terms of the final score as Clemson dominated soon to be Heisman Trophy winner George Rogers and the No. 14 Gamecocks.

Defensive back Willie Underwood also had two interceptions – the first ones of his 47-game career – including a 37-yard touchdown return to ice the Tigers' 27-6 victory in front of 64,000 fans in Death Valley.

No, Nov. 22, 1980 will be remembered for one thing – the birth of the orange pants.

Clemson entered the South Carolina game with a 5-5 record after being blasted the week before at Maryland 34-7. The Tigers had lost four of their last five games and there were rumors, that if Clemson did not beat Jim Carlen's 8-2 Gamecocks, head coach Danny Ford was sure to be fired.

"It didn't look real good for us," Ford recalled when looking back.

South Carolina came into the game playing well. The Gamecocks' only two defeats came at Southern Cal and at Georgia, both of which were ranked in the top 5 of the Associated Press poll. More impressive was the fact USC had a win at No. 17 Michigan and were winners in six of their last seven games.

With his team down on itself after the loss to Maryland, Ford knew he needed to do something to inspire his football team. Taking a page out of his mentor's book – Alabama's Bear Bryant – Ford reached deep into his bag of motivational tricks and pulled out a pair of orange pants.

When Ford played at Alabama, Bryant would allow his team to where crimson pants with the crimson jerseys against rival Auburn when he felt his team deserved to play in them or if they needed an emotional lift.

In hopes of inspiring his team, Ford broke out the all-orange uniforms – a first for any Clemson team at the time – against South Carolina that November afternoon in Clemson.

"We warmed up in the white pants, but we all knew we were going to change into the orange pants when we got back to the locker room so all throughout warm-ups we were pumped up and ready to go," Clemson All-American linebacker Jeff Davis said. "We knew how excited the fans would get when they first saw us come to the top of the Hill wearing nothing but orange.

"I mean we had the orange helmet, the orange jersey and the orange pants. The only thing we did not have on that wasn't orange was our shoes. When the fans saw us, they went crazy. We knew right there we were going to win."

The chain of events it sparked after that will forever live in Clemson lore.

The Tigers got the scoreboard first late in the opening quarter when Obed Ariri capped a 60-yard drive with a 41-yard field goal. The Gamecocks answered on their next possession with an Eddie Leopard 47-yard field goal to tie the game at three.

Clemson took a 6-3 lead when Ariri was true from 47 yards with 7:31 to play in the first half. USC eventually tied the game again in the third quarter with a 29-yard Leopard field goal.

With time running down in the third quarter, the Gamecocks moved the football to the Clemson 16 where it appeared poised to take the lead for the first time in the day, but Underwood stepped in front of a Gary Harper out pass and raced 64 yards down the left sideline to the South Carolina 24. Six plays later, quarterback Homer Jordan went in from the one, giving Clemson a 13-6 lead.

On the Gamecocks' next possession, Harper again threw the ball into the flats to Ben Cornett and again Underwood made a break for the ball and took the pass back for a 37-yard touchdown and a 20-6 Tigers lead.

Clemson later added a 15-yard Jeff McCall touchdown to seal the 27-6 victory. Rogers finished the afternoon with 168 rushing yards, but ended his USC career without scoring a touchdown against the Tigers.

Underwood's 101 return yards are still a Clemson record to this day. The senior also recorded a game-high 17 tackles and for his efforts was named the National Defensive Player of the Week by Sports Illustrated.

As for the rest of the Tigers, the win over South Carolina did more than just secure a winning season and save Ford's job, it also was a springboard for Clemson's national championship run a year later.

It was a good thing the Tigers decided to wear orange pants. Top Stories